Jennings making Rays forget Crawford

BOSTON -- These days, the Rays aren’t missing current Sox left fielder Carl Crawford much at all.

The reason? Rookie upstart Desmond Jennings, who after being called up by Tampa on July 23 has shown much of the speed, power and great defense that his highly-priced predecessor showcased in nine years with the Rays.

Jennings’ talents were on full display during Tuesday’s doubleheader at Fenway. Batting leadoff in both games, the highly-touted rookie hit an RBI double to score the Rays’ only run in Boston’s 3-1 day-game win, then launched a solo shot in the nightcap en route to a 6-2 Tampa win.

In just 22 games since being called up from Triple-A Durham on July 23, Jennings is batting at a .337 clip with 30 hits, 5 home runs and 14 RBIs. He has also shown promise on the basepaths with nine stolen bases.

Perhaps more impressive on Tuesday, however, was Jennings’ defensive prowess in left field. With Adrian Gonzalez on first base in the first inning of the night game, Jennings made one of the best catches you’ll see with a perfectly-timed, fully-extended leap at the base of the Green Monster in left to snag a Dustin Pedroia line drive and end the inning.

Manager Joe Maddon lauded Jennings for his ability to handle the unusually tall wall in his first trip to Fenway Park.

“The thing that’s underappreciated about that catch is it's against a tall wall. That doesn’t happen often that a player makes that catch,” Maddon said. “A tall wall normally gets an outfielder in a bad position and he can’t jump and he can’t do what he did, so that makes that play even more impressive.

“Since he’s come up he’s been pretty much like you saw tonight. Good at-bats, creates havoc on the bases, the defense is there.”

Sounds like a Tampa Bay outfielder of the recent past.

When the Red Sox signed Carl Crawford to a seven-year, $142 million contract, it left some big questions in Tampa Bay as to who would fill the speedy left fielder’s shoes. Jennings has provided the answers.

Still, the rookie doesn’t focus on the Crawford comparisons and says he viewed CC’s departure merely as an opportunity to play at the major league level.

“I just wanted to play,” Jennings said. “I don’t really think about it like that. I just knew that once he was leaving, I had a chance to play somewhere.”

He’s certainly earned his place. In the fifth inning of Tuesday’s nightcap, Jennings got a hold of an Erik Bedard fastball and sent it well over the Monster seats in left field. Jennings' blast even took Maddon by surprise.

“I knew he had power but not this kind of raw power,” Maddon said. “The balls he’s hit out have been properly struck for a good distance. So you’re seeing this guy who has another tool that I wasn’t really aware of, and that’s the power.”

Crawford, meanwhile, was a combined 0-for-6 with four strikeouts in the doubleheader. At least for now, Jennings is giving the Rays plenty of reasons to put the days of Crawford in the past.